The Australian government is set to allocate over $50 million towards research into long COVID, following recommendations from a parliamentary committee that has called for a national database to monitor the virus.
This financial boost will enable experts to "gain a deeper understanding of the persistent condition," in which individuals claim to continue to experience COVID symptoms months after their initial infection.
Health Minister Mark Butler explained that the research will inform governmental strategies for addressing long COVID in the future.
"Long COVID is an emerging health issue, both in Australia and internationally," he said. "I have tasked my department with developing a national plan to respond to long COVID, taking into consideration the committee's findings."
The committee released its final report on long COVID, which included nine recommendations for the government. Among these suggestions was the establishment of a nationally coordinated research program dedicated to the condition.
The committee also called for the creation of a national COVID database, which would be managed by the future Centre for Disease Control. This database would record information about infections, hospitalizations, complications, long COVID cases, and cases within high-risk populations.
The inquiry recommended that the government adopt the World Health Organization's definition of long COVID, while allowing for revisions as new information becomes available.
According to this definition, long COVID occurs when symptoms persist or develop three months after the initial infection and last for at least two months.
In addition, the committee urged for an improved COVID vaccination strategy and routine reviews by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee into antiviral treatments. Committee chair and Labor MP Mike Freelander emphasized the need for additional support to address the future impacts of long COVID.
"We will need to help schools, universities, and workplaces adapt to allow the gradual return of people with long COVID. We will also need to train health professionals in how to diagnose and manage long COVID patients," Freelander said. "Our primary health providers need to be educated on how best to support and diagnose long COVID."
Freelander also expressed concern about the higher prevalence of long COVID in women compared to men and advocated for a comprehensive summit to examine the pandemic and government responses.